Thursday, June 03, 2010

Interview: The Changing Face of Academic Presses

Excerpt from an interview about Northwestern University Press (NUP) with University Librarian Sarah Pritchard, published in the June issue of Information Today:

Q: Does NUP plan to make any of its books OA?

A: I see a lot of advantages to the selective use of OA in both monographs and journals. However, the question you immediately face is how you get over the hump. For a small press, your backlist is your ongoing bread and butter. So you aim to have at least one big seller on your backlist, probably a textbook. NUP has a couple of big selling textbooks in the field of improvisation and the teaching of drama in classes, for example. These have become staple texts in theater and performance programs.

The problem is that if your backlist is quite profitable and you make it OA, which some people advocate, how do you make up the lost revenue? Or do you just slash your staff?

The truth is that you can't produce books from nothing, even if you are printing them electronically. You still have design, marketing, programming, editorial work, copy editing, and so on. So OA raises a difficult problem for university presses.

Q: The model that many advocate for OA books is making the text freely available online but sell the print version, so that etext will drive print sales. Do you see it as a viable model for NUP?

A: Absolutely, I see that as a very logical model, and I would envisage us moving to that model before we move to a totally OA environment. By the way, we are currently in the process of moving one of our journals to OA, which we are very excited about … TriQuarterly.

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